(by Khalid Gul)
Such is the political climate of Tral that if you die for a side that you see as the enemy then you even don’t get a fitting goodbye. That was how the funeral of Lateef Ahmad Gojri went: quiet, unnoticed, and unsung. He was a policeman who died in a shootout with the four guerrilla fighters of Jaish-e-Muhammad in Tral on Tuesday.
The policeman was given a quiet burial at his village of Kangdoora-Kahlil in the darkness of the night with just his relations and neighbours in attendance.
Some three miles away the two villages of Handoora and Khangund, in contrast, wore the sacrifice of their two young guerrillas with pride. In fact, no one slept as songs of freedom and resistance on mosque loudspeakers kept the villages up all night. And as the first rays of the sun touched Tral, tens of thousands of mourners came into the two villages to give the two guerrillas an emotional send off. Ishfaq Ahmad Khan and Abid Maqbool Bhat died in the gun fight in the forests of Tral with two of their Pakistani compatriots also dying by their side.
In both the villages, the bodies of the guerrillas couldn’t be buried as mourners kept coming hour after hour and newer and newer rounds of funeral prayers were to be held to accommodate more mourners. Hundreds of women were also in attendance as they tossed candies on the remains of the guerrillas. To honour their sacrifice, a few of their colleagues turned up with guns firing a few shots in the air as pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan and pro-Islam slogans charged up the atmosphere.
“I don’t know the boys personally but I left home early morning to participate in their funerals,” said one Muhamad Zubair who had come all the way from Kulgam. “ There is certainly something which drives people from far off places to the funerals of these boys whom they have not even known ,” he said.
Abid, one of the slain guerrillas, was the son of police officer. Abid had joined the guerrilla outfit only forty five days back. He was a student of a polytechnic college. His father Muhamad Maqbool Bhat is an Assistant sub Inspector with the Jammu and Kashmir police and one of his brothers, Shahbaz, is set to join the same force.
In contrast, Ishfaq came from a humble background – his father Ghulam Nabi Khan is a farmer and his brother and a sister- are students. He himself worked as painter to make a living before taking up arms. Ishfaq’ s first cousin, Abid Khan—a top Hizb commander—had shot dead an army colonel MN Roy in an encounter in January 2015 before he too was gunned down.
Lateef, the slain policeman, had joined the police’s Special Operations Group in 2000 after his first cousin, Areeb Gojri – working with the same counterinsurgent force was killed in a militant attack.
“He was stripped of his job in 2017 after his close friend –Sheraz Ahmad ran away with his service rifle from his residential quarter housed in a SOG camp Tral to join Hizb ranks. But was reinstated later,” a source said.